Ronin

Cafe spotting is one of my favourite weekend activities, and nothing rejuvenates me more than a good brunch and a caffeine fix. With the spike in cafes all over Singapore, I am sure my weekends will be kept busy with brunch appointments for a long time (not forgetting repeat visits at my favourites).

Located opposite Clarke Quay station, Ronin is one of the few cafes that is easily accessible by train. Opened by the same guys behind the popular The Plain and The Bravery cafe, you know you’re in good hands. Seating is rather limited and most are communal tables, so be prepared to wait and share table space. Reservations are not possible since there is no number to call. There isn’t a formal menu, but the waiting staff will come by to tell you what’s available for the day. On the weekend that we were at the cafe, there were three main categories of food available – sandwiches, eggs and toast.

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Wicked Mocha ($5.50): Admittedly, the first thing that got me attracted to Ronin was not the food, but the mint mocha. A refreshing twist from the usual mocha, this is perfect for After Eight chocolate fans who do not want to give up their coffee. I particularly liked it that the mint did not overpower the aromatic coffee. Another plus was that while the drink was chocolatey, it was not overly sweet. Definitely my new favourite drink.

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Matchatone ($5.50): This is essentially steamed milk served over matcha paste. If you are big on matcha like me, I suggest that you do not stir in all the matcha paste with the milk; leave a quarter of the paste and eat it on its own. The intense matcha paste is is the best part of the drink.

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French Toast ($14): Eggy brioche topped with caramelised crunchy apple slices and smoky bacon, finished with a good amount of maple syrup. Pork and apple is a time tested pairing, so it was no surprise that this sweet and savoury combination worked perfectly. The fluffy brioche was not only a delight to eat, it was great for mopping up the lovely juices and syrup as well.

In addition to the above, we ordered a roast beef sandwich as well. No photo of it though. Warm crusty bread with thinly sliced roast beef dressed in a tangy dressing and Japanese pickles. It was tasty no doubt, and the picked daikon radish was a nice twist, but we would have preferred it better if they were more generous with the roast beef.

Overall, this cafe is highly recommended for its food and drinks. I am not a big fan of the dim lighting and hipster vibe of the cafe, but that’s just me. Having said that, because I rank quality of food and drink above ambience, I will still be back for more of the awesome mint mocha. In fact, I am craving for it as I type.

Ronin is located at 17 Hong Kong Street and is open daily from 08:00 to 20:00.

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Mad For Garlic (Clarke Quay)

The guys behind Mad for Garlic were definitely not kidding about their obsession with garlic. Hailing from Korea, this Italian cuisine inspired restaurant not only has a menu with a strong emphasis on garlic, even the lamps and decor resemble garlic bulbs.

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Located in the heart of the nightlife scene in Singapore – Clarke Quay, the modern looking restaurant looks like the perfect place for a date night. Well, that’s if neither is bothered by each other’s garlic breath. By the way, reservations are highly recommended on weekends. We ended up with bar counter seats because we didn’t have prior reservations, and it wasn’t till much later did we manage to move to a proper table.

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Garlic Bread Tower ($12.50): Warm crusty baguette topped with fresh garlic puree. It was served as a tower, but even before I could snap a photo, the waitress had already compressed and cut it up. Other than it’s initial presentation, this is no different from the usual garlic bread. It didn’t help that the garlic flavour was rather mild, and $12.50 for garlic bread is definitely way overpriced.

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Garlic Snowing Pizza ($22.50): Thin crust pizza topped with shrimp, pineapple, fried garlic and lots of cheese. I usually stay clear of pizza with pineapple, but this unique combination of flavours worked well together, and was surprisingly addictive too! My only gripe is that it is a little on the sweet side. Perhaps less pineapples and more garlic would balance things out.

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Shrimp and Garlic Sprout Pasta ($21.70): Don’t be deceived by the description on the menu that it is done in light olive oil sauce. This is one fiery pasta (even for someone who has a high threshold for spicy food)! I was expecting to see shrimps the the size of those on the pizza but was pleasantly surprised to find decent sized prawns. This chili pasta was tasty with the seafood but the garlic sprouts seem redundant.

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Chicken and Spinach Cream Pasta ($22.40): Though it was indicated on the menu that this pasta comes in a spicy cream sauce, the sauce was no way near spicy. The cream was a little too thick and it was already cloying barely halfway through the pasta. Would have preferred the chicken to be more tender also.

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Garlic Sizzling Rice ($21.40): My favourite dish of the night and by far the most garlicky one as well. This isn’t just any other garlic fried rice. Served on a hot iron pan, the fried rice is done with bacon, fish roe and garlic pickles, and topped with tons of fried garlic chips (can’t never get enough of it!). I particularly liked the play of textures with the addition of crunchy (or ‘QQ’ as some will call it) fish roe which added a burst of flavour with every bite. Not to mention the pickled garlic which intensified the flavour of the dish. Despite it’s hefty price tag for fried rice, it is definitely worth a try.

Overall, although there were some hits and misses, this place is still recommended for garlic lovers and for curious foodies. Unfortunately service was dismal and most of the service staff appeared lost. We got so tired of getting the attention of the service staff to refill our glasses that we helped ourselves with the water jug. Perhaps you will have better luck next time!

Mad for Garlic is located at Block 3B, River Valley Rd,#01-16, The Foundry; and is open from Sunday to Tuesday from 17:00 to 23:00 and Wednesday to Saturday from 17:00 to 01:00.

Car parking spaces are available at Block 3 of Clarke Quay. Alternatively, you may wish to park at Liang Court which is cheaper.